Bringing Whitney Stevens Home

A SD family is working to bring their daughter's body back after she died in South America


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A South Dakota family is longing for closure.

Their 24-year-old daughter tragically lost her life in a hiking accident in South America.

Now they’re fighting to bring her remains back home.

But they’re not in this fight alone.

“We didn’t expect anything close to the ou

tpouring of help,” says Wayne Stevens.

From business fundraisers to a GoFundMe account, the Stevens family has found some light in a dark time.

“Just to know that people are there and we’re not alone in feeling that, it does make it better,” says Wayne’s wife, DeeAndra Sandgren Stevens.

The two live in Sioux Falls.

But on March 1, it was a call that came from across the world that shook them.

“Just shock and panic,” says DeeAndra on her initial reaction. “It was very blunt when Wayne came and told me because he wasn’t understanding either, and I just said ‘I don’t understand those words’.”

The call was to tell them their adventurous daughter, Whitney Stevens, died hiking to Machu Picchu on the Andes Mountains in Peru.

“They had so much rain that it loosened the hill side,” explains Wayne. “The ground just gave way and it was 100 ft. down into the river. She did survive the fall, but not the river.”

Whitney’s step-mom says she died doing what she loved.

“We have a photo of her the morning of and she’s just beaming,” says DeeAndra. “To have her be that happy right up until the last moment, that’s what you want for your kids.”

She says Whitney’s love for the outdoors will live on through her 4-year-old daughter, Marley.

“That’s one of the first things she got is one of those backpack things, and she put Marley in it and they’d go hiking all through the hills,” says DeeAndra.

Before the family can begin to heal, they want to properly mourn their loss, bringing Whitney’s remains here to the U.S.

“They’ve released her,” says Wayne. “We had her cremated there, which helped speed things along.”

The family has already picked out a box for her ashes, but getting Whitney’s remains back from Peru will cost them up to $20,000.

That’s where the fundraisers have come into play.

Five Guys in both Rapid City and Sioux Falls are donating half of their Monday sales to the family, a Rapid City tattoo and pottery shop are also raising money and a GoFundMe has raised $11,556 of the $12,000 goal.

What could have taken up to 3 months, now has a new timeline.

“We would hope by Friday we’ll have her home and have the ceremony,” says Wayne.

Whitney lived in Rapid City, and was a member of the National Guard serving in Kuwait and Iraq for a year.

Her family says her ashes will be kept at the Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis.

Whitney was traveling with a friend who survived the accident.

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